Kathy Liebler

Manager, Public Affairs & Media Relations

C  O  M  M  I  S  S  I  O  N       N  E  W  S       R  E  L  E  A  S  E


Carl DeFebo (717) 939-9551, Ext. 2934

May 19, 2003

Fare-Collection Upgrades Will Help
Ease Congestion on Western Turnpike

 Changes between Cranberry and Gateway will begin on Sunday June 1.

HARRISBURG, PA. (May 19, 2003) — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on June 1 will unveil several fare-collection system upgrades along its westernmost 30-mile segment designed to improve fare-collection efficiency and result in reduced congestion in this busy corridor. The “Western Toll Improvement Project” consists of four elements that include:

·        the opening of a new main-line toll plaza stretching across the highway at milepost 30;

·        the elimination of tolls and toll tickets at three western Pa. interchanges;

·        the modification of the Gateway plaza to a “cash-exchange” facility; and

·        the conversion of all Turnpike exit numbers to a milepost-based system.

 “This is another significant step in improving the efficiency of the Turnpike’s fare-collection system here in the greater Pittsburgh area,” said Turnpike Executive Director Joe Brimmeier, pointing to the implementation of E-ZPass as another efficiency-boosting measure. “The Western Toll Improvement Project — along with the other regional initiatives such as the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects — demonstrates our commitment to enhancing the ground-transportation network in southwestern Pennsylvania.”

One of the project’s key elements is the $23 million, 13-lane mainline toll plaza at milepost 30 in Marshall and Pine townships, Allegheny County. The new facility, called Warrendale Toll Plaza, extends across I-76 at the former site of the Butler Service Plaza, which was closed last year to make way for the new toll plaza.

On Sunday, June 1, Warrendale’s opening date, the new toll plaza will help improve the flow of traffic through this fast-growing, congestion-prone corridor by eliminating tolls at three interchanges. This is how it will work:

  • Warrendale will become the western limit of the Turnpike’s “ticket” system. That is, all westbound or exiting motorists (except E-ZPass customers) will stop, hand in their tickets and pay toll; eastbound or entering motorists (except E-ZPass customers) will stop to pick up a ticket. Warrendale will feature a number of E-ZPass lanes for those who have enrolled in the program, eliminating the need to stop for a ticket or pay cash.

  • The Gateway Plaza — the present western limit of the Turnpike’s ticket system near Ohio — will be converted to a flat-fee, “ticketless” facility. Toll tickets will not be issued or collected at Gateway. Instead, both eastbound and westbound motorists will pay a fixed rate (passenger vehicles pay $1). Gateway will have the capacity to process E-ZPass transactions, eliminating the need to stop and surrender cash to a toll collector.

  • Tolls — along with tollbooths — will be eliminated at the three interchanges between Gateway and Warrendale, allowing for unimpeded flow of traffic at and among New Castle, Beaver Valley and Cranberry. Motorists entering or exiting the Turnpike at #10 (old exit 1A), #13 (old exit 2) or #28 (old exit 3) will not have to stop to get a ticket or pay. Those traveling within these three interchanges will not have to pay any toll.

  • Motorists exiting/entering the Turnpike westbound at Cranberry will use a new ramp that leads to a traffic signal on Route 19. Eastbound Turnpike traffic will temporarily continue to use the existing ramps until the direct link to I-79 is completed. This summer, motorists will also see the construction of two temporary ramps that will allow traffic to use PENNDOT’s new connector bridge over Route 19 to access the Turnpike.

  • On June 1, when the upgrades are activated, cash-paying customers will also see a different toll ticket featuring new Turnpike exit numbers. The former “dual-numbering” system will be phased out, and all Turnpike exits will be identified according to milepost location alone. This summer, motorists will see the new numbers appearing on Turnpike exit signs, maps and other materials. All Turnpike exit names will remain unchanged.

 “After years of completing the study, design and construction phases, we’ve at last come to the crucial moment when we’re ready to put down the shovels and open the job,” said Brimmeier. “We’re thrilled to have reached this point after lots of intense work. But the end result — a streamlined western toll system and a safer, more efficient Pennsylvania Turnpike — has been well worth the effort.”

Mosites Construction Co., Pittsburgh, is general contractor for the Warrendale Plaza; J.B. Fay Co., Russellton, Pa., is general contractor for the $18.2 million Gateway conversion as well as the $1.2 million demolition of the Beaver Valley and New Castle facilities. (Demolition of Cranberry is under a PENNDOT contract.)

Another vital aspect of this plan is the I-79/Turnpike link known as the Cranberry Connector. When it opens in early 2004, the Connector — a $44.3 million, joint PENNDOT/Turnpike venture — will provide direct access between Interstate 79 and the Turnpike and improve mobility in Cranberry Township, one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. Dick Corp., Pittsburgh, is prime contactor for the Cranberry Connector.

“Western Pennsylvanians have waited many years for this regionally significant project,” Brimmeier said of the Connector. “Thanks to the cooperation of many state, federal and local agencies, the Cranberry Connector — along with the enhancements to the Turnpike’s fare-collection system — will soon become a reality.”

The Warrendale Plaza and the Cranberry Connector jointly represent a $67 million expenditure on two key regional arteries. Add the cost of the Gateway conversion and demolition of the two toll plazas, and it equates an overall investment of $87 million in southwestern Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.

As June 1 approaches, construction near Cranberry and Gateway will intensify. Motorists are cautioned that sporadic single-lane closures will occur on this stretch through Sunday, June 1. In addition, the Turnpike will be closed from Cranberry to Butler Valley for two hours on June 1 at 5 a.m. All eastbound traffic will exit at Cranberry and reenter at Butler Valley, and all westbound traffic will exit at Butler Valley and reenter at Cranberry. During the closure, all motorists will receive detour cards upon exit. Visit www.paturnpike.com for details.


 P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649